‘Ah well,’ said Ralph, ‘I’m afraid I shall dislike her in spite of her merits.’

‘You’ll probably fall in love wih her at the end of three days.’

‘And have my love-letters published in the Interviewer? Never!’ cried the young man.

The train presently arrived, and Miss Stackpole, promptly descending, proved, as Isabel had promised, quite delicately, even though rather provincially, fair. She was a neat, plump person, of medium stature, with a round face, a small mouth, a delicate complexion, a bunch of light brown ringlets at the back of her head and a peculiarly open, surprised-looking eye. The most striking point in her appearance was the remarkable fixedness of this organ, which rested without impudence or defiance, but as if in conscientious exercise of a natural right, upon every object it happened to encounter. It rested in this manner upon Ralph himself, a little arrested by Miss Stackpole’s gracious and comfortable aspect, which hinted that it wouldn’t be so easy as he had assumed to disapprove of her. She resulted, she shimmered, in fresh, dove-coloured draperies, and Ralph saw at a glance that she was as crisp and new and comprehensive as a first issue before the folding. From top to toe she had probably no misprint. She spoke in a clear, high voice—a voice not rich but loud; yet after she had taken her place with her companions in Mr Touchett’s carriage she struck him as not all in the large type, the type of horrid ‘headings’, that he had expected. She answered the enquiries made of her by Isabel, however, and in which the young man ventured to join, with copious lucidity; and later, in the library at Gardencourt, when she had made the acquaintance of Mr Touchett (his wife not having thought it necessary to appear) did more to give the measure of her confidence in her powers.

‘Well, I should like to know whether you consider yourselves American or English,’ she broke out. ‘If once I knew I could talk to you accordingly.’

‘Talk to us anyhow and we shall be thankful,’ Ralph liberally answered.

She fixed her eyes on him, and there was something in their character that reminded him of large polished buttons—buttons that might have fixed the elastic loops of some tense receptacle: he seemed to see the reflection of surrounding objects on the pupil. The expression of a button is not usually deemed human, but there was something in Miss Stackpole’s gaze that made him, as a very modest man, feel vaguely embarrassed—less inviolate, more dishonoured, than he liked. This sensation, it must be added, after he had spent a day or two in her company, sensibly diminished, though it never wholly lapsed. ‘I don’t suppose that you’re going to undertake to persuade me that you’re an American,’ she said.

‘To please you I’ll be an Englishman, I’ll be a Turk!’

‘Well, if you can change about that way you’re very welcome,’ Miss Stackpole returned.

‘I’m sure you understand everything and that differences of nationality are no barrier to you,’ Ralph went on.

Miss Stackpole gazed at him still. ‘Do you mean the foreign languages?’

‘The languages are nothing. I mean the spirit—the genius.’

‘I’m not sure that I understand you,’ said the correspondent of the Interviewer; ‘but I expect I shall before I leave.’

‘He’s what’s called a cosmopolite,’ Isabel suggested.

‘That means he’s a little of everything and not much of any. I must say I think patriotism is like charity—it begins at home.’

‘Ah, but where does home begin, Miss Stackpole?’ Ralph enquired.

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